Nerves are fragile and can be damaged by pressure, stretching or cutting. Injury to a nerve can stop signals to and from the brain causing muscles not to work properly, and loss of feeling in the injured area.
To fix a cut nerve, the insulation around both ends of the nerve is sewn together. If a wound is dirty or crushed, your physician may wait to operate until the skin has healed. If there is a space between the ends of the nerve, the doctor may need to take a piece of nerve from another part of the body to fix the injured nerve. This is called a nerve graft.
After surgery, the nerve generally begins to heal in three or four weeks. The feeling of pins and needles in the fingertips is common during the recovery process. While this can be uncomfortable, it usually passes and is a sign of recovery.
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, (RSD) is a condition characterized by burning, stiffness, swelling and discoloration of the hand. It has been determined that RSD occurs in the part of the nervous system controlling circulation and sweat glands in hands and arms. If not treated, stiffness and loss of use in the affected part can occur. Injury may precipitate RSD. Other causes may be pinched nerves, cancer, stroke, heart attack and infection.
Diagnosis is based on pain and tenderness, changes in circulation, joint swelling and stiffness, and changes in appearance of skin. There are three basic stages in RSD. The first stage is characterized by pain and swelling, increased surface temperature of the affected limb, sweating, and increased nail and hair growth over the affected area. Stage I usually lasts one to three months. Stage II is characterized by more constant swelling, brittle fingernails, and cooler skin temperature as the area becomes more sensitive to touch. This stage usually lasts from three months to one year. Stage III occurs from one year on, and is characterized by pale, dry, tight skin with continuing stiffness, though pain may decrease. Return of range of motion diminishes.
Early diagnosis and treatment is imperative to successful outcome. Medication by mouth and injection of local anesthetic may give some relief. A tourniquet may be applied and therapy may be recommended.
A qualified physician can advise the best method of treatment; however, the full and active participation of the patient is essential to recovery.